Summary: God requires that we value and appreciate his goodness in making us female and male.
Matthew Henry wrote of the first woman: “She was not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”
That reminds me of the Sunday School class in which the teacher explained how God created everything, including human beings. Six-year old Stevie was transfixed by Eve’s creation from one of Adam’s ribs. Later in the week, his mother noticed him lying down as though he were ill, and said, “Stevie, what is the matter?”
Little Stevie answered: “My side hurts; I think I’m going to have a wife.”
The beginning of boys and girls. Three paragraphs in Genesis 1 and 2 help explain what it means that man is male and female.
[Read: Genesis 1.26-31; 2.4-8; 2.18-25. Pray.]
The cover of the January, 1992 issue of Time Magazine pictured a boy and a girl and the shocking revelation: New Studies Show That Men And Women are Born Different. They could have saved research money by consulting Mother Goose. The old poem recognizes that boys and girls are not the same:
What are little boys made of? Snips and snails, and puppy dogs’ tails, that’s what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice, and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of.
But for Time Magazine it was a breakthrough because decades of feminist dogma insisted that differences between boys and girls resulted from social pressures rather than from something deep-seated and personal. The article said that according to the feminism of the 1970s, “Once sexism was abolished the world would become a perfectly equitable, androgynous place, aside from a few anatomical details.” Time interviewed Jerre Levy, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, as typical of the change that came over the new feminists. She said, “When I was younger, I believed that 100% of sex differences were due to the environment.” But when she had a baby of her own, she realized that her toddler was a girl baby, different from boys, and she concluded: “I’m sure there are biologically based differences in our behavior.” (Levy has not reached a Biblical answer, but at least she understands that nature as well as nurture is involved.)
Elisabeth Elliot gives a Biblical perspective in her essay, “The Essence of Femininity” (Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 394): “Feminists are dedicated to the proposition that the difference between men and women is a matter of mere biology. The rest of us recognize a far deeper reality, one that meets us on an altogether different plane from mere anatomical distinctions…. It is unavoidable and undeniable, yet in the past couple of decades earnest and high-sounding efforts have been made in the name of decency, equality, and fairness, at least to avoid it and, whenever possible, to deny it. I refer, of course, to femininity—a reality of God’s design and God’s making, his gift to me and to every woman—and, in a different way, his gift to men as well. If we really understood what femininity is all about, perhaps the question of roles would take care of itself.”
What especially intrigued me about Elliot’s perspective was her experience with people in the jungles of South America. In that remote location, far from the social experiments and activism of “educated” feminists, men and women knew they were different: “The femininity of woman was a deep-rooted consciousness of what she was made for. It was expressed in everything she did differently from men, from her hairstyle and clothes (if she wore any) to the way she sat and the work she did. Any child knew that women wove hammocks and made pots and caught fish with their hands, cleared underbrush, planted crops, and carried by far the heaviest loads, while men chopped down trees and hunted, caught fish with nets and spears, and carried no loads at all if there was a woman around. Nobody had any complaints. These responsibilities were not up for grabs, not interchangeable, not equal. Nobody thought of power or prestige or competition.”
Those last three words are significant in the current climate of gender confusion: power, prestige, competition. Conflicts over both the roles and the meaning of male and female are not fundamentally fights about the strength of women, the empathy of men, or whatever trait is desired; sooner or later they become fights over whether we will fulfill God’s calling as women or men, unique and special each one. Girls and boys are different, not merely biologically, and not simply due to the environment in which they were raised. God made us male and female, each good and beautiful, each necessary and different, each bearing his image, each uniquely equipped for our responsibilities.